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A Hitting Pitcher: George Grant, #2

A Hitting Pitcher: George Grant, #2

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A Hitting Pitcher: George Grant, #2

310 pages
5 hours
Jan 18, 2019


George Grant is a farm boy who is struck by lightning while helping his dad harvest grain. His dad is killed, but George recovers with lingering effects that cause him to get tingles in his hands and arms whenever he throws a baseball or lifts anything heavy. The tingles make him stronger and give him great speed and accuracy when pitching a baseball. His vision is also affected and he now sees a baseball in flight moving like it is in slow motion.

This second book in the George Grant Series is a continuation of George's high school years. As a sophomore he led his team to their first state baseball championship. George has outstanding pitching skills and his ability to see the ball moving in slow motion results in him getting a hit every time he bats, unless he gets an intentional walk. He never strikes out. He again leads the team to unprecedented achievements.

He and his brother, Roy, suffer another tragedy as they lose their mother to cancer. Their Grandpa and Grandma Grant become their guardians and help them run the farm, which now belongs to them.

George develops a deep affection for Marcy Caldwell, a classmate who helps him with his studies and who somehow can sense when he has tingles in his hands and arms. George is surprised that Marcy can tell when he has tingles because no one else, not even the doctors, can do that. He also realizes that he gets tingles whenever he's near Marcy.

When George and Marcy graduate from high school they plan to go to college. They also plan to get married. However, the summer after they graduate George learns that things don't always work out as planned and his dream of becoming a professional baseball player is in jeopardy.

Jan 18, 2019

About the author

Jay Henry Peterson grew up as a farm kid on the northern Great Plains. He milked cows, handled beef cattle, hogs and chickens and spent many hours on tractors and other equipment planting and harvesting small grains, corn and soybeans. He began writing as a teenager, creating whimsical poems and stories to amuse his high school classmates. Most of that unpublished writing has been lost. After being passed around by his classmates, much of it was wadded up and tossed in the trash basket in some classroom. He often wrote sports and feature articles for his high school and college newspapers. His college years were interrupted when he was called to serve in the United States Army, a time that included a year in combat operations in the swamps and jungles of South Vietnam. He returned to college after the service and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism.   During a professional career of more than four decades as a printing and publications executive his writing was largely confined to business projects. Jay Henry Peterson is retired. He recently returned to writing for pleasure, this time concentrating on short stories and novels. He and his wife live in Arizona.

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A Hitting Pitcher - Jay Henry Peterson

Chapter 1

Early fall had always been a favorite time of the year for Irma Grant. The grove of trees that sheltered the Grant farm on the north and west were a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees. There were box elder, cottonwood, elm, maple and oak trees with some blue spruce and tall pine trees among them. The leaves would soon turn to yellow, gold and red and she liked the contrast they made with the green needles of the pine trees.

She stood in the kitchen with a cup of coffee in her hand, looking out the window to the west. The cottonwood leaves were just starting to change to their fall color. The cottonwood were always first. Some of them were already fading from green to yellow. The box elder would soon follow, then the maple and elm would turn and the oak would be last.

She couldn’t see any of the farmland from the kitchen window now because of all the leaves on the trees. She knew that would change as soon as the leaves fell. Then she would be able to see much of the farm through the bare branches.

The Grant farm was larger than most of the farms in that area. The home farm was a full section of land. In addition, there was a quarter section of gently rolling hills five miles away that was used as summer pasture. The soil on that quarter section was sandy and they did not want to plow it up and plant crops there for fear a dry period would cause all the top soil to blow away. Besides, they needed the summer pasture for their herd of Hereford beef cattle.

The farm hadn’t always been that large. When Irma, who grew up as an only child on the neighboring farm to the north, married the son of the man who owned the Grant farm, it had been a half section of land. That was the same size as her parents’ farm. When Irma and Gene, also an only child, married the elder Grants turned the farm over to them and moved into a retirement home in the city, four miles away. Irma’s father also retired and they started farming his land. When Gene and Irma’s younger son was five, her father died and she inherited his land.

Irma and Gene had been high school sweethearts and they planned to marry when she graduated from high school. Gene had graduated two years earlier but he was called into the Army and sent off to war. His dad couldn’t do all the farm work by himself so he hired a man to help him.

It was two years before Gene came home. Shortly after he got out of the Army he and Irma married and took over the Grant farm. Gene kept the hired man, Fred Ross, to work with him as they also took over farming her father’s land.

The Grant farm continued to be successful under Gene and Irma’s management. His great-grandfather had been the first to farm the land and he believed in diversification. The earlier Grant generations had dairy and beef cattle, hogs and chickens for livestock and they raised a variety of small grains and corn. The dairy herd now was 120 Holsteins, the beef herd was 100 Hereford cows and their calves, there were 75 purebred Landrace hogs and a thousand Leghorn chickens. They raised barley, oats and wheat as well as corn and soybeans. They had large fields of alfalfa hay.

Irma was a widow. Gene had been killed by a lightning strike more than a year ago and she was left with the responsibility of managing the farm and raising their two sons, George and Roy. George was a high school junior and Roy was in the ninth grade at the junior high school.

George had been hit by the lightning strike that killed his dad, but he had survived with no noticeable injuries beyond the burn scars on his back and the backs of his arms. Shortly after his recovery from the burns he had developed tingles in his hands and arms that could not be detected on any medical equipment.

They were there whenever he threw a baseball or tried to lift something. He said they never hurt, just felt funny. He thought they made him stronger. He could lift 75-pound alfalfa bales like they were light straw bales. He could lift a five-gallon pail of water like it was an empty bucket. He also developed the ability to see a baseball flying through the air as if it was moving in slow motion. Only baseballs seemed to be affected by that strange change to his vision. Everything else, from watching TV to seeing birds fly, looked normal to him. It was a condition the eye doctor could not explain.

Irma had always looked forward to full fall color. But not this year. Her lower back hurt most all the time. She thought she might have strained it working in the garden or bending down to pick up something on the floor. But after a month it still hurt and she didn’t feel any relief except for a short period of time right after she took pain pills.

A few days after her sons returned to school that fall she drove to the city, only four miles from the farm, to see Dr. Blake. He was the doctor who had cared for George after the accident. After Dr. Blake had given her a thorough checkup they sat in his office talking about the results. I’m not sure about what I see on the X-ray of your spine, he had told her. I might just be imagining things, but I think we need to take some more pictures.

Okay, Irma had responded. Just what do you think or imagine you’re seeing on the X-ray?

I don’t want to alarm you, the doctor had told her as he held up the X-ray close to a bright light so he could see it more clearly, but I can see what looks like a very small abnormality on your spine just below your waist. He looked at her and added, It might be nothing more than a slightly misshaped vertebrae in your back. That’s not unusual. It doesn’t look like a bone spur or a herniated or bulged disk to me. However, before jumping to conclusions, I’d rather we checked it out some more.

He put down the X-ray and said, I want to send you to the regional medical center at the capital and have them give you a checkup. They have specialized equipment that we don’t have. They also have several medical specialists who can give us a better idea of what might be causing your pain.

The medical center was only about an hour’s drive away and she had asked the doctor to make a mid-morning appointment for her so she could leave home after the boys had gone to school and be back home before school was out. I’d rather not say anything to anyone about this until we’ve figured out what it might be.

Dr. Blake had said, Sure, I can understand that. We don’t want to cause any undue anxiety. I’ll have my nurse call to get an appointment for you with a specialist I know there. I’ll have her do that now and it will be set before you leave today.

She had gone for the additional checkup early the following week and now she was waiting for the specialist to send the report to Dr. Blake. They had told her it would probably be more than a week before the results would be complete and then they would send the report to him.

At the beginning of that same week the hired man, Joe Wagner, who they called Uncle Joe, began chopping corn for silage to fill the two silos. It went smoothly, even if it was a lot slower than normal because they were without their other hired man. He had gone to Ohio when his mother died and planned to remain there to settle the estate. However, he suffered a heart attack and would not be able to return to the Grant farm.

When he got home from school George quickly changed into his working clothes and helped empty the last loads of silage for the day.

After the first silo was filled at the end of the second day, George helped Uncle Joe move the blower so he could start filling the second silo the next morning. Uncle Joe finished filling the second silo late Thursday afternoon and when George got home from school he helped take down the blower. Uncle Joe planned to clean it up Friday and put it back in the machine shed. They wouldn’t need it again until next fall.

The Central High School Tigers had a home football game that Friday night and George went, even though he didn’t get there until the end of the first quarter. Andy Carson, a big senior fullback, was the hero. He scored two touchdowns and rushed for more than 150 yards as the Tigers won their fourth game of the season. Some of the students were getting excited about the team’s prospects for getting into the playoffs. After the game Andy joined George and his girlfriend, Marcy Caldwell, and some more friends and classmates at Billy’s Burger Hut. It was a very happy group of Tigers fans that filled the Hut. George and Marcy stayed longer than many of the students, enjoying late evening burgers and spending lots of time on the dance floor. Is something wrong, George? Marcy asked as he held her close during a slow dance. It feels like your hand is buzzing where you’re holding mine and I can feel something like tingles in your other arm.

He almost blurted, How can you tell I’ve got tingles in my arms? but he managed to stop before he said something he didn’t want any of his friends to know about. He laughed and told her he was probably just excited to be holding her so close. She smiled and they held each other closer. He didn’t tell her about all the times he had tingling in his hands and arms and he sure wasn’t going to tell her that he always got intense tingles whenever he was near her. He didn’t understand why he did, but he knew he always had them.

She snuggled close to him as he drove her home from Billy’s and they sat in the car in the Caldwell driveway for 20 minutes before she said she had to go in before her dad came out to get her. George was nearly home before the tingles in his hands and arms stopped.

It was a few minutes past midnight when George got home. He parked the car and carefully closed the door so he wouldn’t wake anyone up. He was surprised that his mother was in the kitchen in her bathrobe, but he was too late to see her take some pain pills. Goodness, George, you’re up late. Or should I say, early? Will you be able to get up for chores in the morning? she asked with a smile.

George smiled back and told her, A bunch of us went to Billy’s after the game and stayed long enough to do some dancing. We stayed until Billy’s was about to close. Then I took Marcy home. Now, I guess I better get to bed before the cows wake up!

On Saturday morning George and Uncle Joe did the weekly cleaning of the barn and hog house while Roy cleaned the chicken house and spread new wheat straw for the chickens to scratch around in. By 10 a.m. Uncle Joe was out chopping corn while George was hanging plastic sheets down over the sides of the bale stacks so the moisture from the silage wouldn’t ruin the hay. When they stopped for chores Sunday evening the outdoor silage pile was half done. They covered it with plastic sheets to retain the moisture. The next weekend was a repeat and late Sunday afternoon the silage pile was completed, covered and ready for use when the beef cattle were brought home from the pasture.

Sunday night’s supper was over, but before anyone was excused from the table Irma announced, To celebrate all the extra things you three have accomplished in the past several weeks, we’re having a special dessert. It’s not quite done yet, but as soon as I take it out of the oven, we’ll enjoy it. That is, she added, as soon as the dishes are done. I believe its Roy’s turn to wash.

Roy jumped up and stepped over to the stove, his nose close to the oven door. That smells like apple pie to me! he chortled, I’ll have mine with some ice cream! He moved over to the sink and started running water to wash the dishes. Hurry, George, he teased, or I’ll eat your pie, too! George stood up, picked up some of the dishes and stacked them on the counter by the sink.

Soon the four of them were watching TV while enjoying apple pie with a double scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. It was a treat the boys really liked. Thanks, Irma, this is really good, Uncle Joe told her as George and Roy, their mouths full, mumbled their appreciation.

Dr. Blake called Irma Monday afternoon and asked if she could come to his office the next morning. He told her he had the reports from the regional medical center. Shortly after the boys left for school the next morning she drove to Dr. Blake’s office.

This report is a half-dozen pages, Dr. Blake told her as he waved the papers in the air. And we have several pictures of your back to go with it. The report is written with a lot of medical jargon which might not mean much to you but the bottom line is it says the specialists have a consensus about what’s causing the pain in your back.

He reached over and took her hands in his. Irma, I hate to say this, but you have a malignant tumor growing on your lower spine. We don’t know what caused it, or how long it’s been growing there but it appears to have been there for some time. That tumor is pinching nerves and causing your back pain. When they did the checkup on you they scanned all your internal organs and they did numerous tissue biopsies. They also found some malignant growths in your pancreas.

Irma sat there, stunned. Oh, no! she said in a trembling voice. I never suspected my back pain was anything like that! At first I thought it was a pulled muscle, and then maybe a slipped or herniated disc in my back. She sat there for a few moments, then looked up at the doctor, What can we do about it?

Dr. Blake sadly shook his head. Unfortunately, the only thing we can do about the tumor is to give you some medicine to lessen the pain. The tumor is growing in your spinal column so surgery isn’t an option. It would mean cutting out part of your spine. He shook his head again. We can try radiation and chemical treatments on the pancreas but I’m afraid those treatments haven’t been very successful."

Dr. Blake squeezed her hands and added, I’m sorry, but I just don’t have any good news for you.

Irma sat for a minute, staring blankly down at her hands as Dr. Blake held them. She raised her head and with tears in her eyes said, What you’re telling me is that I’ve got cancer and you don’t think there’s anything that can be done about it. Is that right?

Nodding his head, Dr. Blake said, I’m sorry, Irma, but I’m afraid that’s it. We can try treating the pancreas. In rare cases treatments have been known to eradicate the cancerous cells in the pancreas. There is a slight chance the radiation might affect the growth of the tumor in your spine. It’s happened before. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

I’m almost afraid to ask, Irma said in a quivering, low voice, but if there’s nothing to be done about the tumor and other treatments might not work, what options are there?

There really aren’t any, the doctor said in a very somber voice. The report suggests that with the condition of the spinal tumor and the quantity of cancerous cells in the pancreas, your life expectancy might be only a few months. Maybe as long as six months or as few as two.

Oh, oh, oh, Irma whispered. She sat there in a daze for a few moments, raised her head and said, You said the radiation treatments might give me a few more months. Is that right? Dr. Blake nodded. In a hushed voice Irma said, I’ve heard that people who have the radiation treatments usually get very sick from them, even if they do work. Doesn’t that mean I would end up bedridden?

Yes, Dr. Blake agreed. I think it’s very likely that any radiation or chemical treatment we give you is going to weaken your system to the point you end up bedridden, unable to do anything. But, remember, not everyone gets sick from the treatments. There have been cases where that didn’t happen. Not many cases, to be sure, but a few. He squeezed her hands again. I’m afraid anything we tried would be a very long shot, he said.

Irma pulled her hands back and folded them in her lap. With tears filling her eyes she told the doctor, I need some time to think about this. I’m not ready to commit to either radiation or chemical treatments right now. As the tears ran down her cheeks she added, I’m scared, Dr. Blake. I’ve got two teenage boys I’m trying to raise alone because my husband died in an accident a little over a year ago. I don’t know how they will be able to cope with losing their mother.

You have every right to be scared, Irma. I’m sorry I had to tell you your world has just been destroyed. I know how hard everything has been for you to make a go of the farm without Gene. I just wish there was something I could do to make this problem go away. Dr. Blake hung his head. I wish I could perform miracles. I really do.

Irma asked how long it would be before she might become incapacitated, and the doctor said, It’s hard to tell. Sometimes it happens very quickly after the cancer is discovered. Sometimes the cancer seems to stop growing and just when you start feeling better it suddenly takes over your whole system. It’s just so hard to tell.

As Irma stood up to leave, Dr. Blake added, It’s very likely that at some point you will become bedridden. I know two retired nurses who live here in the city. Both do home care and either one of them might be available to assist you on short notice. I’ll have my nurse get their addresses and phone numbers so you’ll have that information if you decide you want home care.

When Irma left the doctor’s office she drove to the drugstore to fill the prescription he had given her for some very strong pain medication. Then, instead of driving back to the farm she went over to Grandma and Grandpa Grant’s house. She was there for more than two hours.

As she drove home she began making a mental list of things she would need to do. First, she would talk with her attorney. She had to arrange a guardianship for the boys. Grandma and Grandpa Grant had agreed to do that. Then she needed to talk with Uncle Joe. The dreaded having to tell the boys.

After that she would talk with Mavis Belsen. Mavis was like a big sister to her. Mavis was the one person outside the family who Irma leaned on. She was there when Irma’s mother had died before George was born. She was there when Irma’s dad had died eight years later. And she was there when Gene had died last year.

Irma waited until Saturday afternoon to tell her sons and Uncle Joe. As she expected, the boys were devastated. They sat on the couch and she squeezed one boy to her with each arm, the three of them holding each other as the tears ran down their cheeks. Irma knew that when their father was killed half their world was taken from them in a heartbeat. It had been just over a year, but the pain had not lessened for them or for her. Now the other half of their world would be taken from them soon, maybe before the end of the year. And there was nothing anyone could do to prevent it.

As Irma quietly talked with the boys, Uncle Joe sat in a side chair near them. As he watched and listened to what Irma was telling the boys, he thought, this will be much harder for them than losing their father. That was sudden. This is worse. They’re going to have to watch their mother die.

We don’t need to tell anyone about this yet, Irma told them. The only people who know besides us are your Grandma and Grandpa Grant, Mavis and Ernie Belsen and Dr. Blake. I think that’s enough for now.

When the boys had gone to bed Irma and Uncle Joe sat at the kitchen table talking about the upcoming bean and corn harvest. It would be several weeks before it started, but with her diagnosis, she wouldn’t be able to help with any of it. Ernie had volunteered to come over and help but Irma knew he would be needed to help his son with the harvest on their own farm. The other Belsen sons were away at college or jobs. Irma told Uncle Joe she didn’t see any way around it, they were going to have to talk to someone about hiring a custom combining crew to do it.

On Monday morning after the boys left for school she called one of the custom combiners. I’m sorry, Mrs. Grant, Irma heard the voice at the other end of the line say, but my crew and equipment will be out of the region when the beans and corn around here are ready for harvest. My company has a contract to harvest the beans and corn on 15 thousand acres almost 200 miles southwest of here. That’s going to take us at least two weeks. Some of my crew and equipment are already on their way out there. After we finish that contract I’m moving the team north about 50 miles to take care of another contract. We probably won’t be home until after Thanksgiving.

Masking her disappointment at this news, Irma asked, Isn’t there another custom combining crew in our area? It seems to me I’ve heard there were two teams operating in this area.

Yes, Frank Jackson has a team that does a lot of bean and corn harvest throughout this region. In fact, he does more around here than we do. His company is smaller and he usually doesn’t contract for really large areas like we do. If you’ve got a pencil and paper handy I’ll give you Frank’s phone number and you can see if he’s available. I know he’s working south of you about 20 miles now and will be zigzagging across that area for the next week or so. I don’t know what he’s got planned after that.

Irma thanked him and as soon as she hung up the phone, she picked it back up and dialed the number. Frank isn’t here now, she was told by the person who answered. He probably won’t get in from the field until after eight tonight. That’s when he usually checks in. Irma explained why she was calling, said the farm was four miles south of the city and she had 120 acres of beans and 160 acres of corn to be combined. The person who answered the phone told her, I’ll tell Frank we talked and he’ll call you back when he comes in. It might not be until after nine tonight, though. If conditions are right Frank has the crew working late in the evening."

Irma replied that even 10 p.m. wasn’t too late for Frank to call her. She said she was looking forward to getting his call.

It was nearly 10 p.m. when the phone rang. Mrs. Grant, this is Frank Jackson. Sorry to call so late. We had a very good day with no evening dew so we kept the combines going until about an hour ago. Irma replied that the late call wasn’t a problem. My office told me about your bean and corn crop. Unfortunately, my crew is booked solid for the next eight weeks and we won’t be within 20 miles of you. However, since you have your own equipment and just need labor, I might have a solution that will help you with your harvest.

He stopped talking for a few seconds. Sorry, he told Irma, I’m drinking some coffee to cut the dust in my throat from a long day on the combine. She could hear him clear his throat, then heard him say, I don’t know if you were aware of this, but I knew your husband quite well and even after this long, I offer my sincerest sympathy on your loss. Gene was a well-liked and highly-respected man and we all miss him. I also know Joe Wagner, your hired man. I worked with him at Arnold Hempstead’s farm when I first started doing custom work 15 years ago. Arnold’s combine broke down and I was able to help him finish the harvest.

I thought your name sounded familiar, Irma said. I remember how upset Arnold was when his combine broke and he couldn’t get parts to fix it. I also remember Gene talking about how lucky he was that you were available since you probably combined more beans and corn in one season than we could grow in 50 years.

I’m not sure about that, Frank laughed, but we do combine a bunch of beans and corn each year. He stopped and she could hear him take another drink of coffee. Now, I have a man on my crew who plans to quit in another week. He’s a good worker and I hate to lose him, but his wife is scheduled to have knee surgery right after Thanksgiving and he needs to be home to take care of her. He can’t travel with my crew because we will be out of the area from mid-October until after Thanksgiving, maybe even mid-December. I know he’s accepted another position locally, but that doesn’t start until the first of the year. I’m sure he would like the chance for some added income before Helen’s surgery.

That sounds wonderful, Irma said. Do you have a phone number where I could call him tomorrow?

He’s going to be on a combine all day tomorrow, Frank responded. I’ll tell him to call you tomorrow evening as soon as we get in from the field. But, if you’ve got a pencil ready, here’s his home phone number. Irma picked up the pencil again and Frank told her the

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